McDonald's converts waste grease to biodiesel

By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy | September 04, 2007
Fast-food giant McDonald's is developing a biodiesel program in several countries, following the company's efforts in Austria in 2003 when it developed a closed-loop production concept. The used oil from the company's restaurants is converted into biodiesel, which is then used to fuel the company's distribution trucks.

This model has been followed in Malta and most recently in the United Kingdom (UK). This summer, McDonald's UK began running B100 in half of the 45-vehicle fleet that operates from the McDonald's Basingstoke distribution center. McDonald's said its entire fleet in the UK-155 vehicles-will eventually use B100.

The company gathers waste cooking oil from about 900 of its restaurants in the UK. The oil is processed at a small biodiesel production facility in Milton Keynes, England. The cooking oil comprises 85 percent of the feedstock, while rapeseed oil makes up the remaining 15 percent.

McDonald's tested B5 for a year before it switched to B100. It found that small modifications to fuel pipes were needed, and the vehicles now require more frequent servicing, according to Media Relations Manager Lorraine Homer.

Homer highlighted the carbon savings that biodiesel use will bring. "The carbon savings of the move will be 1,675 [metric tons] annually when the national rollout is completed-the equivalent of removing 2,424 family cars from the road each year," she said. "Our work with the Carbon Trust will help us find more ways, big and small, to reduce our carbon impact across the whole of our business."

The McDonald's corporation has embraced the motto, "Reduce, reuse, recycle." In Malta, the company posts its biodiesel program under its reuse goals; "Used frying oil is sent for reprocessing into biodiesel," the environmental policy reads.

McDonald's is also experimenting with biodiesel in the United States. The Delta Institute, a Chicago-based environmental and economic development nonprofit organization, is exploring the feasibility of a project that would convert McDonald's used cooking oil into biodiesel in the Chicago area. Senior Associate Director Chris Slattery said the feasibility study is nearing completion.
 
 
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